Wednesday, April 20, 2005

China's People Problem

CAN China—population 1.3 billion—really be running short of people? In many of the most important parts of its booming economy, the answer, increasingly, is yes. Though China has a vast pool of unskilled labour, firms in the south now complain that they cannot recruit enough cheap factory and manual workers. The market is even tighter for skilled labour.

The particular shortages mentioned most often are of creativity, of an aptitude for risk-taking and, above all, of an ability to manage—in everything from human resources and accounting to sales, distribution, branding and project-management.

Its Confucian heritage, which emphasises rote learning and hierarchy, may partly explain why many graduates, despite good paper qualifications and English language skills, are often cautious about taking the initiative. Some firms complain that China's one-child policy has made it harder for them to find natural team-players.

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